Asia’s New Silk Road

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As Thant Myint-U writes in his article, "Asia's New Great Game," Burma is emerging as the missing link between China and India, connecting the two massive countries to form what could become a modern Silk Road. The two giants have invested in massive infrastructure projects in Burma, which after being virtually closed to outsiders for decades has also seen a renewed interest in tourism. While long criticized in the West for its human rights abuses, Burma is being courted in the East; China sent an official delegation to the country just days after a supposedly civilian government took control, a political transition that many observers criticized as a cosmetic improvement over the junta that ruled previously.

Burma reflects the influences of Indian and Chinese culture, from the 2 percent of the population practicing Hinduism to the booming Chinatown in Rangoon, the largest city. As highways and high-speed rail projects make the country more accessible to other parts of Asia, the new Silk Road is set to redraw the map of Asia.

Above, a shop selling lottery tickets and advertising posters in the Chinatown neighborhood of Burma's largest city, Rangoon, in 2007.


A Burmese boy of Indian origin has his tongue pierced for a Hindu festival at Kyauk Tan township in Rangoon in 2010. While just 2 percent of Burma's population practices Hinduism in this majority Buddhist country, Hindu influences can be found in Burmese language, culture, and architecture.


A Burmese woman at the newly-built railway station in Naypyidaw on March 26, 2010. The Burmese government moved its official capital to the new city about 300 miles north of Rangoon in 2005.


The Mekong River, known as the Lancang River inside China, winds its way downstream through the foothills of the Himalayas in the remote mountains of southwest China's Yunnan province. The Greater Mekong Subregion -- which includes Burma, Cambodia, China, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam -- is set to be transformed by a vast new network of "economic corridors" under a regional transport scheme designed by the Asian Development Bank.


Chinese-Burmese Khin Ma Ma Mon, whose family originally came to Mandalay, Burma's second city, from Beijing, sits in her fabric shop in the Chinese market in 2009. The enterprising Chinese are largely responsible for the economic revitalization of downtown Mandalay, now rebuilt with apartment blocks, hotels, and shopping malls, returning the city to its role as the trading hub connecting lower and upper Burma, China, and India. The Chinese dominance in the city center has pushed other groups to the suburbs.


A supporter of Burma's detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi holds a portrait of her during a rally near Suu Kyi's compound on Nov. 13, 2010 in Rangoon. Suu Kyi, 69, was held under house arrest for most of 15 years but has been released by the country's military leaders. After the first elections in 20 years the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party was declared to have won the election.


A Burmese pro-democracy supporter holds up a placard reading "Stop supporting military dictatorship" during a protest against the ruling military junta in New Delhi earlier this year.


Burmese demonstrators hold up anti-military junta and anti-China placards during a protest in New Delhi in 2009. Protesters urged the Chinese government to call for suspension of a proposed gas pipeline from Burma's Arakan State to China's Yunnan Province.


Burmese vendors sell food at their kiosks in a small street in the Chinatown neighborhood of Rangoon on Oct. 2, 2007.

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